A few days ago, together with my friends, Estonian Foreign Minister Paet and Ambassador Kaljurand, Estonia’s Ambassador to the U.S., I congratulated the American Chamber of Commerce in Estonia on its 15th birthday. Almost as old as renewed independence for Estonia itself!
Estonia’s journey from Soviet occupation to a vibrant and innovative economic leader is an example for others to study and follow. Of course, for neither Estonia or the Chamber was the path always easy or without its challenges. But similar to Estonia’s transformation as a nation, the rejuvenation of AmCham I have witnessed over the past several years is tangible and deserves enthusiastic recognition. AmCham’s mission and desire to grow into an ever stronger and more prominent voice for U.S. business in Estonia is being realized. I am proud of my Embassy’s strong and creative partnership with AmCham in that role. Our cooperation runs the gamut of issues and events. From drawing attention to issues such as intellectual property rights, to American community events like our joint Fourth of July celebrations, to creating the Estonian American Innovation Award, we indeed have much to be proud of.
Looking ahead, we see new challenges and opportunities that will require even stronger engagement to help create more jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Through expanded business ties and putting our respective innovative economies in high gear.
Many pundits have spoken recently about the United States turning its attention away from Europe and towards Asia. This has stoked fears that U.S.-European economic and security relationships will suffer. They will not. The U.S. and Europe, politically, economically, socially and emotionally represent two sides of the same coin. As to our relations with the Asia/Pacific region, Americans, Estonians and other Europeans can and will walk and chew gum at the same time.
Let’s recall the facts: Transatlantic trade accounts for 40 percent of the global economy. Americans and Europeans are not only preferred, but also natural partners. We recognize that concerted action by the United States and our allies in Europe is required if we want to tackle the global challenges and opportunities of our time. This is true for building a vibrant and free 21st century global economy, mitigating climate change, engaging emerging economies, and recovering from the global financial crisis. And it is true for combating terrorism or cyber threats, and completing our mission in Afghanistan.
On the business front, the U.S. and EU are working through one of my favorite cross-ocean institutions — the Transatlantic Economic Council. We seek to avoid unnecessary divergence in regulations and standards that impede trade; develop fully compatible approaches to emerging technologies; and coordinate our activities to level the playing field for our companies in third countries, particularly in emerging economies. All of this is under the overarching goal of creating a truly open transatlantic marketplace and improving the prosperity of our 800 million people.
Estonia, and AmCham Estonia, have important roles to play in the U.S.-European economic partnership. In this, Estonia’s compact size is both a plus and a minus. A small and advanced rule-of-law country can quickly take advantage of new entrepreneurial opportunities. It can offer stability and low risk that many much larger economies can only hope for. But a small domestic market also means that the 800 million people have to become Estonia’s target market. And a small population means having to tackle the limits of in-country human capital – in terms of education and training as well as immigration policy.
Estonia, and more importantly, “E-stonia, is already an established leader in a number of 21st century economic priority areas. These include processing rare earths; developing alternative as well as new forms of traditional energy; information technology; and of course the myriad of e-services that Estonians already treat as routine and that make the rest of us jealous. The world has come to learn about innovative Estonia. Expanding and delivering on that reputation will be the task of Estonian entrepreneurs and this AmCham together with American innovators. My Embassy will continue to be part of this exciting and promising future.
With that in mind, once again, Happy 15th Birthday AmCham Estonia!